Thirty seconds after Mr. Halfstory said, “you did a good job handling all the mood swings while I was gone,” Temper #2 flared up on the floor below us, like those fires that quickly engulf entire forests. Within half an hour Yvette and I had covered six priority topics, eaten two or three slices of chocolate banana bread (ok, that was only me), lobbed a few threats, wiped away stress tears and I personally had snatched my pillow off my bed and said I was sleeping downstairs. Halfstory lay very still on his side, hoping sleep would clobber him into insensitivity. His shoulder massage contraption, plugged into the 40-foot-long orange extension cord snaking around the bed perimeter hummed, raising my irritation level, but only for a minute. Poor Big Bacon Bringer did have an important early meeting. I had a brief flashback of my step-dad – sweet guy that he is – turning around to address my complaint about our VW bug and how it seemed to be smoking from the back seat. “It’s hauls your ass to school, doesn’t it?” he yelled more than once, over the high gurgly whine of the engine. I’ve reflected more than once that as little as my parents wanted to hear about my emotions, my generation of parents hears about nothing but emotions, via our ongoing encouragement to communicate. This is good, of course, but sometimes I find I have to cut them off and say the thing that irritated me the most when my mom would say it: “It’s going to be fine.” “What does that mean? I don’t believe you!” I would silently wonder. Back then it seemed to me a big stinking lie about which I needed to worry. This explains a lot, now. So, clad in my faux-leopard-fur robe and seeking peace, I tried to channel (a):
while Mr. Halfstory was channeling (b):
I cracked open my book, Runner, by Patrick Lee, my chosen palate cleanser after The Goldfinch. Expecting a Lee Child-ish thriller, I was surprised to find it kind of, well, creepy. And I mean that in a good way. It is a thriller with lots of twists, betrayals and implausible fights with weapons that suddenly appear and everyone knows how to operate. Sam Dryden is ex-everything (Special Ops, etc.) and therefore equipped to manage the flight of Rachel, a 12-year-old girl he literally runs into early one morning. She’s running from some kind of evil. The mystery is finding out how insidious it is…and from where it originates. Lee has an unusual way of keeping Sam in the background, almost just a catalyst, for the action and the mystery, except to reveal his tragic family history. But that drives the story, too. Usually with this kind of book, it’s all about what a bad-ass the protagonist is, and his inevitable choice to be a loner. Not so much here. Creep and all, it’s a timely brushstroke on thought control and privacy, with some cool genetic science thrown in.